A last-minute surge in orders for Samuel Heath, mostly for its "invisible" Perko Powermatic door closers gave the Birmingham maker of specialist building fittings a far better annual result than seemed likely only a couple of months before its March year-end.
The orders were met rapidly out of stock, so that yesterday Heath reported a full-year profit of £933,000, up from £852,000 even though its sales were six per cent down at £11.375 million.
But that was before a special pension payment of £250,000, which lowered the headline profit to £683,000.
Since April 30, Heath's two final salary pension schemes have been closed for future benefits to existing members as well as newcomers, though the liabilities for past service remain.
Samuel Heath, chairman, said these were no threat to the company's financial stability, even under the new accounting rules, which require pension commitments to appear as liabilities in the balance sheet.
Heath finished its year with £2.56 million of clear cash.
"We have cash to cover any pension liabilities," Mr Heath said.
He described the reasons for last year's fall in sales as "the usual ones - enormous quantities of cheap imports and difficult trading in the US, both made a great deal worse by the weakness of the dollar".
Europe was no better, although the dollar recent recovery should be helpful.
Heath responded to these pressures by cutting its workforce to 186 from 209.
Mr Heath warned that this cannot be done again this year.
"If such an exercise was attempted, it would harm the future prospects of the company which, because of the introduction of new products, we still feel are exciting," he said.
" If you start messing around with R&D you are in real trouble."
He remains cautious about prospects for this year. "We now have every sign from our order book of a considerable slowdown in the UK market, without any of the others showing an improvement," he warned.
A final dividend of 8.5p gives shareholders a total of 13.5p for a third year, covered 1.6 times by the year's earnings after the pension payment.